Saturday, April 2, 2011

Another Montana de Oro Sate Park Walk

On March 31, it was a holiday (Cesar Chavez Day) and unseasonably warm, so it seemed like the perfect day to skip work and walk from home into the nearby state park. I first took an extended 50 minute walk around Cuesta Inlet (Morro Bay) and my neighborhood, with my dog.  I tallied 61 species, including two BIGBY addition: a fly over male Great-tailed Grackle and a family of Wild Turkeys across the back bay at the Morro Bay Golf Course (through my scope).  I then dropped off Nike at home, packed my lunch and my scope on my back and headed to Montana de Oro State Park, via Sea Pines Golf Course.  I wanted to try and find over 100 species and see what recent spring migrants could be added to my year's list.  The nearby golf course sometimes has various geese and ducks, but the extra walk there this day only yielded coots and mallards.

  From the golf course came a hot one mile uphill walk to the top of the state park entrance road and the descent through coastal scrub habitat and exotic eucalyptus forest toward lower Hazard Canyon.  The definite highlight of the day's walk occurred just before reaching Hazard Canyon, when a bobcat ambled across the pave road in front of me.  It walked casually uphill of the road, to a horse trail that parallels the main road and I went after it (after I pulled out my camera).  I followed the cat at a comfortable distance on the trail and it stopped at a gopher hole to look for a meal. (Gophers seem to be one of the cat's staple meals here.)  I took this shot as it dug for gophers, without luck.  It then went up the trail and disappeared off the trail, and I headed back toward Hazard Canyon. I also heard numerous Pacific-slope Flycatchers in the trees and Wilson's Warblers along the creek (new green year birds) at this location.

 I followed the horse trail which curved away from the main road and down to the creek at the wooded canyon bottom.  After crossing the creek, I went up a side canyon and found several slow flying Margined White Butterflies (pictured below), which seemed to be attracted to the Milk Maids pictured here (mustard family).  This early White butterfly most likely feeds on the Milk Maids given the frequent visits by the bugs to this plant, and the fact that no other mustard family member seemed to be in the vicinity.

I then returned to the main road and walked along the road to the ranch house at Spooner's cove.  I was hoping to find Pigeon Guillemots that I figured had returned because one had been reported from Morro Bay Harbor Mouth.  As I took the scope off my back, to scan the ocean beyond Spooner's Cove, I realized that the eye piece was gone - it had fallen off somewhere on the 4 1/2 mile walk here (expletives deleted)!  I decided to eat my packed lunch here, before checking the campground for birds and then retracing my steps home to look for the eyepiece.  I did locate several new BIGBY species here, including Cliff and Rough-winged Swallows.

I took one side trip on the way home, out to the rocky coast where I saw the usual rocky shore birds such as this Black Oystercatcher and I took photos of the rock formations here (e.g., the photo below).  I never did find any Surfbirds, Ruddy Turnstones or Wandering Tattlers that I needed for my year's walking list.  I did notice that flocks of  up to 15 Whimbrels and 30 or more Semipalmated Plovers had formed, signaling the spring migration for these two species.  Spotted Sandpipers also seemed more numerous than they had a few weeks earlier.

The walk back home was frustrating as I never did find the missing eye piece.  My final tally for the day was 104 species and about 12 miles of walking.  My legs were tired from the long hilly walk.  (The soreness in my calves lasted for a couple of days after this walk!)  I also passed 150 species for my walking big year, with a my running total for the year up to 154 species.

1 comment:

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